It is hard to say which of my thousands of architecture books I would hang on to if I could only keep one. Certainly right at the top of the list would be Sir Banister Fletcher’s A History of Architecture (20th edition, The Architectural Press, 1996). At $200 list (and $128 on amazon), this book is an investment. But at almost 1700 pages, it is the most comprehensive architecture reference book I know of.
I have owned the last few editions. The book used to focus on western architecture, which of course has had more impact on the US and UK. But this latest edition significantly increased the number of pages devoted to East Asian, South Asian (Indian), Islamic, and other architectures of the world. Structures of the distant past are well-covered. 
There is no color in this vast book, but there are tables, charts, and thousands of excellent black and white drawings and photographs. No era of history, no type of architecture, goes untouched. Both famous and relatively unknown buildings show up, all in the historical march of time. The illustrations are accompanied by a comprehensive text discussing cultural history, architectural trends, and how these specific buildings illustrate that history and those trends.
If you want to learn more about architecture, this book is a great place to start. Once you “invest” in it, it stays on your shelf as a fundamental and important reference book. The amazon page for this book has some great reviews of it, as well as links to other books which make for good (and less expensive) introductions to architecture, like those of Kostof and Ching.




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